Danton's Death

Ritchell R van Dams

Jonathan C. Goines HES ’12 and Steven J. Demarco work with tumbrils—carts that carried prisoners to the guillotine during the French Revolution—as they rehearse a scene for “Danton’s Death.” The production, the first HRDC Mainstage of the spring semester, opens on April 2.

April 2-10

Loeb Mainstage

Directed by James M. Leaf ’10

Produced by Elizabeth G. Shields ’10, Elizabeth J. Krane ’11, Nelson T. Greaves ’10, and Jan Luksic ’11

“We must call a halt to the revolution and begin the Republic!” says the French revolutionary Marie-Jean Hérault de Séchelles in Georg Büchner’s “Danton’s Death,” which will be performed on the Loeb Mainstage from April 2-10. This Harvard-Radcliffe Dramatic Club (HRDC) production seeks to make accessible the concept of revolution, while still maintaining the play’s original message.


Director James M. Leaf ’10 says, “A modern American audience has no experience with a revolution; however, there have been revolutions in other countries, so we examined other countries. And those revolutions are at work in a lot of the play’s aesthetics.”

This inspiration is evidenced in the rich costumes of the play, which draw upon the uniforms of various revolutions across history. Despite a bare-bones approach in scenic design, lighting and stage effects will also play a dramatic role in bringing the feel of the revolution to the theater.

“Danton’s Death” follows the life of Georges Danton, a prominent figure in the Revolutionary Government after the French Revolution. In the play, Danton is charged with the creation of the Revolutionary Tribunal, which doles out justice in whatever way it sees fit—largely without trials, evidence, or witnesses.

Months after the Tribunal’s creation, however, Danton realizes its awful power which is responsible for the deaths of many innocent French citizens. He fights to end its reign of terror, a choice which eventually leads him to the guillotine.

Although the play is originally set in the terrifying world of the French Revolution, Leaf wishes to bring it out of its 19th-century French mold and create a more universally applicable rendition. “The play is not set in the past,” Elizabeth G. Shields ’10, one of the play’s executive producers, says.

Leaf agrees, “We’re trying to evoke the world of revolution and the idea of revolution as a whole, not summarize it as it relates to the French Revolution.” Shields adds, “The richness of the play is apparent, but we’re trying to make it less esoteric. We’re trying to bring out the fervor and passion of the Revolution.”

—Chris A. Henderson